I've got a major question...

Polytropon freebsd at edvax.de
Wed Jun 26 04:40:26 UTC 2019

On Tue, 25 Jun 2019 11:57:54 -0700, Allen Schaaf wrote:
> One of the things I 
> want to do is use Thunderbird - or a better alternative - for 
> e-mail for both the staff and the board. This needs to be done 
> once we either move to Windows 10 or a FreeBSD system.

Thunderbird is the common solution to abolish "Outlook" or
web-based mailers. Users tend to find it much more intuitive
in use, and it provides a basis for higher productivity.
Of course there are alternatives, depending on what your
users need: Something more lightweight?

> Running any financial banking system is a bit more complex than 
> we think, primarily because we have to meet auditing 
> requirements. What we do is almost totally local desktops and 
> printers, plus paper copies of things for monitoring various 
> things.

That could develop into severe problems, two paths: First,
"Windows 7" (as you mentioned it) is near EOL and will hardly
get any further approval, let alone the required security updates;
second, using single-user desktops is always a security nightmare
when they run "Windows", even "Windows 10", as the "non-corporate"
versions don't offer you the control neccessary. Everything you
do will be O(n) where n is the number of installations, instead
of doing it O(1) with a centralized server, connected to individual
workstations that do not have any local software (!) installed.
Backup strategies benefit from this approach, too. And FreeBSD
is actually a great foundation to achieve this.

Also allow me to mention the high licensing costs - money you
spend for no real benefit.

> The auditing requirements as to how to do things is more complex 
> than a small banking system can do totally in-house. All of our 
> primary record keeping is done on external systems. the two 
> biggest ones are the corporate credit union Catalyst: 
> https://www.catalystcorp.org/ and the other one on the financial 
> end that we refer to as Mercury Mod, a company based in Silicon 
> Valley - I don't have their correct name so I can't provide a 
> link. the next major outside service is ADP for our payroll and 
> help with human resources.

How do you interface with them? I know the question sounds stupid,
but there are so many ways to do it (send CSV files per e-mail,
send optical media via snail mail - yes, I have seen exactly this
recently! -, use a web client, use some dedicated specific tool,
write your own tool using a library that provides an API, etc.).
I think _this_ is the key problem you need to solve (rather than
getting rid of outdated "Windows" desktops, which is fairly easy).

A FreeBSD installation with a desktop system, generic office
productivity software and browsing tools solves many business
needs. Additional training for the staff (as it is required with
changing versions of "Windows" and "MS Office" is usually not
needed). Primary tools will typically include:

	- Firefox
	- Thunderbird
	- LibreOffice

You can also create a good pre-configuration that is a "skeleton"
for every new user. You can centralize parts of configuration so
updates will be available to every user upon login automatically.
Depending on where the users "come from", choose the desktop
environment and additional tools. FreeBSD offers enough choice
to find something suitable.

What you also get (as a nice benefit) is that LibreOffice is able
to open "MS Office" files that "MS Office" itself has stopped
supporting. You can also re-save it in a standardized (!) format.
Furthermore, you can use external programs to create (!) standardized
office files (typically called ODF - open document format, refering
to word processing and spreadsheet files in the first place). So
for example, you could have a batch-based, web-based or terminal-
based program that requests certain information, calculates stuff,
and outputs a wordprocessing file for further use. Or a PDF file,
if no change is needed afterwards.

Do you require specific external hardware? Check if it is supported.
If you have laser printers, they commonly speak PS or PCL; newer
ones speak PDF. If neither of the "big 3 standards" is supported,
dive into detail (hplip, for example). In worst case, replace the
non-printers for something usable. Do you have any other hardware
you need to support, like barcode scanners, USB security tokens,
label printers? Investigate.

> To show you how slow the process of change is, ADP has been used 
> less than 6 months. Everything was done with hand written time 
> sheets and spreadsheet calculations and a lot of sloppiness.

Here some in-house solution would surely be better. I know certain
companies where it is done this way for decades, requires staff
(to do things worse that a computer program could do better and
faster), and is a "nice" display of "We don't master our tools,
but we call ourselves professionals."; for example, data entry
is done from scratch (!) each month, and results are calculated
manually (!) and then entered into a spreadsheet, which is then
printed, carried over to another clerk (!), who then re-enters
the numbers (!) into a different system (!), calculate, rinse,
repeat, print... I think you get the idea. :-)

A key component of your plan should include to spot "bullshit
work" you find on your way, and find a better solution. Office
PCs with "Windows" and "Excel" seem to foster the growth of this
specific kind of "bullshit work".

> I'm sure the external systems are on mainframe, possibly ERPs as 
> well, but nothing we have in-house is either.

You commonly interface with the mainframe systems though a kind
of "front-end" (as mentioned above). Running _this_ on FreeBSD
will probably be one of the tricky things, except of course it
is a web interface.

Magdeburg, Germany
Happy FreeBSD user since 4.0
Andra moi ennepe, Mousa, ...

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